by Michael Yaworsky Verbs. You remember verbs from English class, right? Action words? Words that say what a person or thing does? Well, in the cavernous warehouse of the English language it turns out there are stacks upon stacks of extremely intriguing, although sometimes offbeat, verbs just waiting to be put to good use, but which we seldom employ because they sound odd or obscure or seem too exotic for everyday use. Ironically, some of the hippest ones are found in the Bible (think deign or vouchsafe; “And Yahweh deigned to...” “O Lord, vouchsafe unto us...”). I bet if you put some effort into it you could come up with a whole list of these seldom-used but very cool verbs that we could all start using to spice up our lives. ….and voila: while you were meandering here from the previous paragraph I went ahead and did just that: put together a list of exceptionally hip, often unsung, but perfectly functional verbs that I would like to use at least once before I kick the bucket. A.k.a. a verbal bucket list. Pretty slick, huh? You've heard of bucket lists, right? Check this one out: 1) Water bucket 2) Lunch pail 3) Utility company lift bucket 4) Bucket o’ balls at the driving range 5) Bucket brigade 6) Rust bucket 7) Bucket of bolts Ha ha! A list of different kinds of buckets! Just kidding. See if this is any better: 1) Get a bucket 2) Fill it up 3) Carry it somewhere, dump it out Ha ha ha!! A list of things to do with buckets!! Okay, enough fooling around, here's the real verbal bucket list – a list of verbs I would like to use before I kick the bucket. ~ ~ ~ First, I would like to deign to do something. I'd get up in the morning and say, gee, I think I'll do some deigning today. For instance I might deign to visit some friends, or deign to buy something for my wife and kids, or deign to help a friend pick up something at the store. It doesn't matter what it is as long as I deign to do it. At the end of the day I might be tired from all the deigning, but it will have been well worth it. Next I want to vouchsafe. Vouchsafe means to condescend to do something. The beauty of vouchsafing is you don't have to do anything different from what you were going to do anyway, you just slap vouchsafing in front of it and, presto! it does all the work for you. Say some friends ask you to help them move to a new apartment. Instead of just helping – which, face it, you were going to do anyway – you can vouchsafe to help them, then help them. Now you've accomplished two things but you’ve only done the work once, and you didn't even have to get up early. What a time saver! Here's one I come close to doing almost every day but never seem to actually pull off: gainsay. Usually when I want to oppose or dispute something, I just deny it or contradict it. Instead I should gainsay the darn thing. That'll show it. How about bandying something about? That's always fun. Why confine yourself to putting an idea out there for others to comment on and then responding with further thoughts of your own? That's just dull. Instead, you and your friends should bandy it about. It's fun, and your friends will thank you because they get to participate too. Or how about its close cousin, bruiting something about? That's fun too. I think the best thing to bruit about is a rumor. But you can also do a good juicy insinuation. You might even get real daring and bruit about some innuendo. Just be careful that you don't hurt yourself. Have you animadverted to anything lately? I've been meaning to but it's one more thing I haven't gotten around to. I guess I spend too much time using less sophisticated verbs that mean the same thing, like disparaging things or commenting on them in a negative way. Maybe the next time people are doing something I don't approve of (for instance, bruiting about some innuendo) I might animadvert to it instead. I should also be agog more. At various times I've been flabbergasted, struck silly, rendered speechless, gobsmacked, and the like but I don't remember being agog. I definitely have to do more agog-being. When's the last time you looked askance at something? That's on my list too. I've wasted some good opportunities by being skeptical about something, feeling pessimistic about it, or doubting that it was very good. But looking askance at it would have been way cooler; I think it uses a different set of muscles or something. Anyway I need to do more of it to, you know, keep myself in fighting trim. I also have to do more cadging. Perhaps cadge a tenner from a chum to buy dinner at the club, or cadge a movie ticket when I'm out with friends. One grows weary of borrowing, cajoling, relying on handouts, and just plain sponging off one’s friends. Those things tend to make one feel degraded. Cadging sounds so much classier, don't you think? Next on my list is to get out and cavil a little – you know, object when there's not really anything to object about. Petty carping, quibbling, resorting to trivial fault-finding, that sort of thing. But if you do try your hand at caviling, be judicious, a little caviling can go a long way, so don't overcavil. I'd also like to cozen somebody. Well actually I'd like to not do it, because it doesn't sound like a very nice thing to do. It means to deceive, win over, or induce somebody by artful coaxing, wheedling, or shrewd trickery. Now I like to think I can be as shrewd or artful as the next guy, and if it's wheedling you want, I'm your man; but it sounds like cozening wouldn't win me very many friends. But let's face it, there are times when you do have to wheedle or shrewdly coax somebody, so if I find myself in that position, I'll try to do it by cozening. Another thing I don’t want to do but would be morbidly curious to see someone else do is snivel. We hear it all the time in uncomplimentary contexts, usually in phrases like “you sniveling coward!” The dictionary defines it as “to have mucus running from the nose” and “to fret and complain in a tearful, whining manner.” Yuck! Not a pretty image. So maybe once would be enough, just to help me picture it more vividly when I come across it in a novel where the bad guy has his come-uppance and the hero gets to call him a sniveling coward. I also have a hankering to cleave to something. There are plenty of things I adhere to, cling to, hold on to tightly, grasp, or am faithful to. But maybe the next time something comes along that I want to adhere to, cling to, etc., I'll skip over them and jump right to the cleaving. That ought to feel good! I also wouldn't mind ballyhooing something. You never see anyone ballyhooing anything anymore, and I think that's a shame. In fact you never hear it used in the active voice at all, only the passive, as in, a Broadway show or some trendy movement is “much ballyhooed.” You never hear it from the standpoint of the ballyhooer: “Some of us are gonna go ballyhoo that new band Friday night; wanna come?” Here's my question: how can something be much ballyhooed if there's not someone doin' the ballyhooin'? Answer me that. And speaking of fun things, here’s another one you might have done without knowing it: festooning. It means to decorate something by draping garlands, flowers, or wreaths over it. I suspect that my classmates and I festooned our gym for the high school prom without even knowing it. We had fun hanging crepe paper and streamers and balloons, but maybe we missed out on even more fun by not knowing that we were festooning the whole time. If we’d known that, we would certainly have been more merry and filled with mirth instead of just plain old having fun, because “festoon” is such a merry, mirth-filling word. I want to lump something. Not in the sense of putting things in a pile, or gathering them into groups or categories, or taking something smooth and making it bumpy; I mean in the sense of, “If you don't like it, lump it.” Show of hands: who's ever seen somebody who didn't like something, lump it? What does that even look like? Does it require training? Are special tools or utensils involved? Does it leave a stain? And I might want to occasionally slake my thirst. This old word means to quench or satisfy. We all do it: you’ve been working all day out in the August sun, your mouth is dry, you can’t wait to gulp down a jumbo-sized lemonade or ice water… then another… and another… because I mean you are really thirsty. So slake that thirst, my friend, go ahead and slake it! I also want to cotton to something. You know, like “We don't cotton to that kind o' thing around here.” Actually, now that I think of it, it seems rare that anyone ever cottons to anything, more generally they don't cotton to it. It appears to operate only in the negative. So maybe my goal should be to not cotton to something. Either way, there's gonna be some cottoning – or not cottoning – going on, and I aim be the one doling out the fluffy white stuff. Here’s another thing I’d like to not do: brook something. You know, like “From his severe expression it was clear that he would brook no criticism.” I’ve got my eye on several things to not brook: argument, doubt, opposition, interference…. I could take the easy route and not tolerate ’em, not permit ’em, not abide ’em, or not put up with ’em, but my gut tells me that not brooking them is the more satisfying way to go. I’ll be glad to hear from you if you think otherwise, but be forewarned: I’ve made my decision and will brook no opposition! Next on my list is that I'd like to actually smite something. At various times in my life I've hit, struck, banged, knocked, pummeled, pounded, clobbered, thwacked, delivered a blow, and otherwise brought force to bear upon the corpus of a thing, but I've never characterized it as smiting. Somehow I think that would make all the difference. One verb I'm not sure about is asseverating. Asseverate means to affirm or aver something earnestly or positively. Which is not a bad thing, and I find myself doing it pretty regularly. But the word just sounds so... I don't know, unseemly. “Hi Mike, what's up?” “Not much, just doin' a little asseverating.” “Whoa, you... do that? And admit it?” So maybe I'll just stick to affirming things earnestly. How about swashbuckling, as in, swashbuckling buccaneers of the bounding main? When's the last time you, or anybody you know, buckled swash? What does that even mean anyway? Is there some kind of buckle you first procure, and then swash it, or swash with it? Or is it the other way around – you procure swash and then see that it’s securely buckled? Anyway it sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon on the bounding main. Overweening is a funny word. It's an adjective but it could be converted into a verb. To do it, it sounds like you first have to ween, then overdo it. Whatever it means, I want to do it, if only to be the first one my block to be able to say I did. A cool thing an overweening swashbuckler might do on the bounding main is rollick. So I'd like to get in on that too. Rollicking means romping in a carefree, energetic, fun-loving manner. You always hear about something being “a rollicking good time.” For that to be so, the people doing the good-time-having have to rollick, at least to the minimum degree necessary to qualify as having done it. Another thing about this word is that it sounds like “rock'n'roll.” So if you go to a rock'n'roll show you'd better be prepared to rollick, 'cause chances are the people all around you will be doing it and you don't want to be the only one left out. Another thing I'd like to do is rue the day. You know, you'll rue the day you ever crossed me! Don't get me wrong, it's not that I want to do one more thing that I end up regretting; I have too many of those already. It's just that, since I have those days anyway, if they ought to be rued, it's undoubtedly my responsibility to do the ruing and I don't want to shirk my duty. Ruage, when properly due and owing, ought to be duly carried out. Here’s one that’s a little different because, strange to say, you don’t have the final say as to whether you’re doing it: gallivanting. You choose what you do, but whether it constitutes gallivanting depends on whether or not someone else approves of it. It’s true! You could be doing anything – hanging out with friends, playing sports, watching a game, listening to music, or whatever, but if you’re not where the other person wants you to be and doing what they think you should be doing, you’re “off gallivanting.” (And it seems to have a spatial component: one is always “off” gallivanting.) Since I get to pick the underlying activity, I’m going to try to get out and do this as often as I can, then hope that while I’m doing it the other person will disapprove so it can qualify as gallivanting. Since we're getting toward the end I think I'll slip in a couple of terms that aren't technically verbs but I'm including them anyway because it’s my List and I can put anything on it that I want to. One is that I want to choose one thing amongst others. I choose from among things all the time, but doing it from amongst them sounds so much more consequential and sophisticated, don’t you think? Similarly I want to do something whilst I'm doing something else. I've whiled things so many times that it's become boring, whereas whilst-ing would be novel and exciting! It's something I'm greatly looking forward to. Finally – and I know this is a verb combined with a particular object – I want to have minions. I don't care who they are, what they do, or how well or poorly they do what they do, if indeed they do anything at all; in fact I don't even know what a minion is. All I know is that I've heard of 'em and I want to have some of my own. ~ ~ ~ Well I hope you’ve enjoyed my verbal bucket list. It’s never too late to start one of your own, listing things you’d like to do (accomplish, carry out, perpetrate, take on, execute, pull off, actualize, make happen, effectuate, bring to fruition, do the job, etc.) before you kick your own bucket. Our language is full of verbs that are cool, exciting, and fun, so let’s go out and make the things we do as cool and exciting and fun as the words that describe them. Well, I’ve got to go now (there’s a verb – “go”) so I’ll see ya next time (there’s another one – “see”). Hmmm, this could go on forever (“go” again)…. I think I’ll sneak out while I can. ’Bye! Michael Yaworsky is a retired legal editor. He lives in Rochester with his family.